If industry’s abandoned bitumen sites kill wildlife, what’s it doing to groundwater and humans?

einstein, defn insanity

Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation chief cites poor environmental policies in the deaths of 30 great blue herons by Claire Theobald, August 9, 2015, Edmonton Sun

After nearly 30 great blue herons were found dead at a Syncrude mining site, Chief Allan Adam of the Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation warns all Canadians pay the price for poor environmental policies.

“We continue to pay the price. We see environmental issues come up in regards to wildlife and waterfowl that keep on occurring,” he said, frustrated with the continued inaction on the part of policy makers.

According to Syncrude Canada spokesperson Will Gibson, the first birds were discovered Wednesday afternoon at a pump site at Syncrude’s Mildred Lake operation.

Workers found 29 herons, including one live bird that had to be euthanized.

The Alberta Energy Regulator has sent two investigators to the Mildred Lake facility, and Syncrude has appointed an investigator of their own to examine the events leading to the death of these birds. [Why are the guilty investigating their crimes?]

“There will be a very thorough investigation into what caused this,” Gibson said. “We are co-operating with the three agencies that are investigating this on site. We intend to find out what happened and address it.” [Why not just clean up the toxic sites and quit all this empty lying deflective talk?]

“From our CEO on down…this is something that every Syncrude employee wants to find out the answers to. Because there’s nobody happy at our site today.” [If so, why did Syncrude leave their abandoned site as a kill site accessible to wildlife? Why not remediate and prevent killing wildlife?  Why did the Alberta De-regulator not shut Syncrude down until all abandoned sites are cleaned up and no longer capable of killing wildlife?]

According to investigators, the birds were discovered near an old pump in an abandoned area holding bitumen and run-off water, the first bird discovered covered in oil.

Syncrude’s wildlife deterrent systems were all functioning that day, however none were located near the pump house. 

Syncrude was fined $3 million in 2010 after more than 1,600 ducks landed on a tailings pond in 2008 on its Aurora operation where 196 birds either died or were euthanized.

Adam says a lack of proper oversight and weak legislation has continued to put all Albertans at risk, including Flora and Fauna, and has called for the establishment of an independent community-based oversight committee to ensure the interests of corporations, governing bodies and people in surrounding communities are all protected.

“Let’s do this right,” said Adam. “If we want to continue to grow the oilsands and continue to prosper from what is here as a resource, then let’s do it the right way.” [What if there is no right way? Companies and the AER are making it clear there isn’t]

The great blue heron is the largest of all North American heron species, standing over a metre tall with a wingspan up to two metres wide. They are not listed as an endangered species. [Emphasis added]

30 blue herons dead at oilsands mine north of Fort McMurray by Jana G. Pruden, August 7, 2015, Calgary Herald

The Alberta Energy Regulator is investigating the deaths of 30 blue herons on the Syncrude Canada Mildred Lake oilsands mine site north of Fort McMurray.  Spokesman Riley Bender said the fatalities were reported on Aug. 7. He said investigators are currently at the site. He said it’s not yet known how the birds died or whether others were injured.  The lifespan of a blue heron is about 15 years.

A statement released by the regulator says, “The AER is working with departments from the Government of Alberta, the Government of Canada and the company to ensure that all safety, wildlife, and environmental requirements are met during the response to the incident.”

Syncrude spokesman Will Gibson said the birds were discovered by an employee, and that the Alberta Energy Regulator, Environment Canada, and Alberta Fish and Wildlife were notified. He said 29 birds were found dead. The 30th bird was injured and was euthanized based on an order by wildlife authorities, Gibson said.  He said Syncrude will be doing an internal investigation into what happened. “We want to prevent the death of any wildlife, and we will be working to determine the cause,” he said. “From our CEO on down, everyone at Syncrude wants to find out what happened, how it took place, to ensure it doesn’t happen again. “Nobody wants to see this happen,” he said. [Really? Why then do so many oil and gas companies refuse to clean up after their billions in profit-taking, billions in taxpayer subsidies and billions or millions in toxic messes left behind?]

30 blue herons found dead at Alberta oilsands site, The Alberta Energy Regulator is investigating the deaths of about 30 blue herons at an oilsands site north of Fort McMurray by Caley Ramsay, August 8, 2015, Global News

The Alberta Energy Regulator is investigating the deaths of about 30 blue herons at an oilsands site north of Fort McMurray.

Bob Curran, a spokesperson with the AER, said one bird was found covered in oil Wednesday at the Syncrude Canada Mildred Lake oilsands mine site. It was alive, but had to be euthanized, Curran said over the phone Saturday.


“It had oil on it so they contacted Fish and Wildlife and requested permission to euthanize it,” said Curran.

Syncrude staff investigated the site further and found other dead birds. They were reported to the AER on Friday.

“They were close to a sump which is a low area where runoff fluids gather. And there was some bitumen there which impacted the one bird that they found this week and euthanized. The others were outside of that area so it’s unclear what the cause of death was.”

It’s not yet known exactly when the birds died. “Some of them have been dead longer than others. We are going to have to make that determination once our staff have arrived on the site,” he said. “They were in different stages of decomposition so we don’t know how long they were dead at this time.”

The cause of the birds’ death is under investigation. The AER said it is working with departments from the provincial government to ensure that all safety, wildlife and environmental requirements are being met. [Or is the dereglating AER working to make sure these deaths get blamed on nature and the story smothered up as quickly as possible?]

Syncrude, which operates one of the biggest oilsands sites north of Fort McMurray, was fined $3 million for the deaths of more than 1,600 ducks when they landed on its tailings pond in 2008.

In November 2014, about 30 birds died after landing on a tailings pond at Syncrude’s Mildred Lake facility. In total, 122 waterfowl died after landing on three sites, including the CNRL Horizon facility and Suncor Energy’s tailings pond.

The AER said all oilsands mines wildlife deterrent programs, including the Mildred Lake facility, are regularly inspected in response to previous bird deaths at the facilities. [Emphasis added]


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